UTICA, N.Y. — In the six years that the Manhattanville Valiants have been in the ECAC West, they have made the climb towards the top several times. Finally, in their second appearance in a league championship game, Manhattanville pushed over the summit tonight and defeated the Utica Pioneers 3-1 to claim their first championship title.
“Winning the championship means everything,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “I think of the guys that started this program, and the dues they paid to give these guys this opportunity.”
Manhattanville scored at 13:51 of the third period to take its only lead of the game, on a superb singular effort by Chris Mills. Utica poured on the pressure during the final moments, including pulling goaltender Adam Dekker for thirty five seconds during the final minute, but Mills scored again with an empty netter at 19:42 to seal the victory.
“[Dekker] gave us a chance to win until about six minutes to go,” said Heenan. “He is absolutely awesome and will give us a chance to win in every game he plays.”
With the victory, Manhattanville secures the Pool B bid into the NCAA Tournament, and now waits until this evening to see who they will play in the Quarterfinal round.
“I think we are just going to wait until tomorrow before thinking about the NCAA’s, and enjoy this one a little bit,” said Levinthal. “It isn’t too often you are in this position.”
Manhattanville continued to hold a territorial advantage early in the third period, but the Pioneers began to whittle away at the advantage and finally evened the play out by mid period.
However, it was a great singular effort by Manhattanville forward Chris Mills that allowed the Valiants to take their first lead of the game late in the period. Mills collected a bouncing puck at the top of the right faceoff circle, and carried the puck towards the Pioneers net weaving around several players. Just as he got to the top of the crease, he was knocked down but managed to get off a soft backhand shot that eluded Utica goaltender Adam Dekker. This goal at 13:51 gave the Valiants a 2-1 lead, which they held on to for the victory.
“We kept telling our guys to take the puck to the net, and to expect to get hit,” said Levinthal. “It finally paid off.”
Utica got the large partisan crowd on their feet in the opening minute of the first period. Just forty eight seconds in to the game, Nick Lynch launched a wrist shot from the right point that wound through a crowd and into the back of the net to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead. Chrapala never saw the puck through the crowd and didn’t react to the play.
The Pioneers almost scored again four minutes later when a pair of Manhattanville penalties put Utica on a 5-on-3 power play. But the Valiants’ defense clamped down and only allowed Utica one shot on goal during the power play.
Killing off those penalties gave Manhattanville momentum, and they turned their own power play at 7:53 into a shooting gallery on the Utica net. The Valiants carried a slight advantage territorially for the remainder of the first period.
Manhattanville tied the score 1-1 at 12:19 with a power play goal by B.J. Greaves. The puck was bouncing along the ice when Greaves collected it just above the right faceoff dot. He launched a quick wrist shot that jumped over Dekker’s glove for the goal.
The second period was all Manhattanville, all the time, as the Valiants dominated play throughout. Manhattanville outshot Utica 7-0 during the first eight minutes, and by a total of 16-2 during the entire period. This despite the Pioneers having a 5-on-3 power play for 1:21, in which they managed to put three shots wide of the net, but none on goal.
“We didn’t really make any adjustment [during the intermission], but we were more effective in what we did,” said Levinthal. “Our decision making was much better.”
“It was everything we were afraid of,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. “We didn’t want a special teams game. Although we are deep 5-on-5, we are thin on our special teams. That just shifted things in their favor, and we were on our heels from that point on. After Friday’s double overtime game, we didn’t have the gas to play that kind of a game.”
The only thing keeping the Pioneers in the tied game was the outstanding play of netminder Adam Dekker. He was called on several times to make spectacular saves, and answered every time.
Manhattanville almost solved Dekker during the final minute of the period. Dekker was down and out to the side of the net as Brad Olson carried the puck laterally across the top of the crease. Olson tried to twist to slide the puck in to the open net, but he bounced it off the post, and the score remained tied 1-1 as the second period ended.
F Jason Murfit (Manhattanville)
F Ricky Walton (RIT)
F Ryan Dolan (Utica)
D Chris Mann (Elmira)
D Galloway Carroll (Manhattanville)
G Adam Dekker (Utica)
MVP: Jason Kenyon (Manhattanville)